Consuelo Vanderbilt – A Wedding on Fifth Avenue

The main American export of the Gilded Age was not the dry goods, not the elevators, not trains, not even technology… it was the American bride. Refined, educated, and groomed for every social situation, exquisitely dressed, beautiful and fantastically wealthy the American heiresses, joined in matrimony with the English aristocracy, formed a seemingly perfect union…

“Mesopotamian” in Manhattan

Although New York skyscrapers bear no restraint in height or a lack of diversity in architectural influences, colorful they are not! What separates the Fred F. French Building from the rest is its warm hue and multicolored decorations. The only “Mesopotamian” or “Babylonian” inspired skyscraper in Manhattan, The Fred F. French Building, is covered in…

Tiffany Blue

If you ever wanted to paint a room with that delicate shade of robin egg blue – you are fresh out of luck! Pantone color No. 1837, called Tiffany Blue, is trademarked by Tiffany and Co and not commercially available. Also trademarked is a little blue box with the white satin ribbon tied around it:…

Alva Vanderbilt’s Party of the Century

March 26, 1883 “Petit Chateau” – 660 Fifth Ave @ 52nd Street When Alva Vanderbilt built a home, she built a castle, and when she threw a housewarming party, it was the party of the century. Alva Vanderbilt, the wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt (Commodore’s grandson), had a mission: to carve out her own rightful…

Alva Vanderbilt’s “Petit Chateau”

Completed 1882 Demolished in 1926 Architect Richard Morris Hunt 660 5th Ave at W 52nd Street If you found yourself back in the 1880s and were standing at the corner of West 52nd Street and Fifth Ave, you’d be in awe of the massive castle-like white limestone structure modestly referred to as “Petit Chateau.” The…

Vanderbilt’s 5th Ave Triple Palace

  Completed 1881 Demolished 1945 A stretch of Fifth Ave from 52nd to 58th street has the moniker of Vanderbilt Row. Although now mostly gone and forgotten, it was once upon a time lined with glorious mansions which belonged to the Vanderbilt family. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the dynasty founder, was crude, uneducated and pretty cruel to…

Audrey Munson – American Venus

  There are many rags to riches stories in the American experience, as well as the stories of falling from grace and losing fortunes. But out of all of them – hers was the most bizarre. Her name was Audrey Munson. The name was forgotten, but her likeness, cast in granite, bronze, and marble, is…

Owls in Manhattan

James Gordon Bennett Jr. was obsessed. His obsession was quite unusual – it was owls. Some of them, with flickering eyes, can be seen on Herald Square, guarding James Gordon Bennett Monument. Herald Square takes its name from the New York Herald, a newspaper founded by James Gordon Bennett Sr and inherited by Gordon Bennett…

Evelyn Nesbit and “the Trial of the Century”

The premiere of “Mam’zelle Champagne” did not go well. Despite the lovely songs and beautiful ingenues, the show was simply a bore. The performance took place on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden – a lavish venue designed by Stanford White, an accomplished architect and a socialite about town. That fateful night the famous architect…

Edwin Booth, the Hamlet of New York

In the center of Gramercy Park, there is a statue. It depicts an actor in the role of Hamlet, forever contemplating “To Be or Not To Be”. This actor is Edwin Booth. One of the great American Shakespearean actors of the 19th century, he was particularly famous for his signature role of Hamlet. In 1864…